The first indications of the Naval Base's possible demise appeared in the 1990s as the
retain military presence, the Navy pullout continued into the 21st century, and by 2000 its hourglass had run dry and there was no active naval operation based at the Philadelphia Base. The yard itself was sold, dirt cheap, to the city of
In a desperate effort scrap together a plan for making the base profitable,
After the Transpax corporation went belly up several months later the city found itself stuck with a fleet of dilapidated ships for which nobody was willing to foot the bill.
In 2003, during a routine inspection of the base, a city worker detected a steady stream of toxic fluids leaking from the hull of a ship belonging to the defunct company Transpax.
The city sent in a team of environmental investigators who found that nearly all of
During this time the South Philadelphia Mafia had taken an interest in the port as a secure place to ship illegal goods. In order to keep the area out of the hands of bums and gangs they began posting a contingent of heavily armed wise guys in the area. Reports of strange activity occurring within the hulls of the old ships started to come in, increasing in frequency as time passed.
On August 21, 2004 a fierce thunderstorm struck the
The Mafia lost all communication with their wise guys posted there and, following the storm, another entourage of tough guys were dispatched to investigate. Although all returned, many were badly injured, and one had a message scrawled into the flesh of his back stating that the base was no longer the "domain of humans".
The injured Mafioso (before succumbing to his injuries and blood loss,) managed to tell his comrades his wounds had been inflicted by blind individuals which now only vaguely resembled humans, most of which were gibbering in wet, runny voices about "the next evolution," and "the crumbling of humanity."
Not ones to be intimidated by a bunch of homeless upstarts with skin conditions, the Mafia is rumored to be gearing up for a major offensive to retake the docks and reclaim territory they say is rightfully theirs.
For the cities part, unofficially they are only to happy to let the criminal syndicate have control of their dirty little secret, especially when their presence with the rusting wastelands helps deter safety inspectors, and anyone else who may blow the whistle on the floating toxic waste dump.
Like the rest of
During the frigid winters, the hulks of rusting metal can be heard to groan and twist in protest, the sound of mechanical abandonment echoing mournfully across the area in wee hours of the morning.
Locations of Interest:
The Loading Dock
This is the hub of mafia operations in the area, where the majority of their cargo is quietly loaded to and from supply ships slipping into the ship graveyard, most of the illegal goods being quickly distributed among the few secure, uncontaminated vessels in the harbor for later resale and usage.
At any given time one can expect to find at least a half dozen “workers” lounging about the area, eager to give nosey reporters and lost tourists the once over for poking into their safe haven.
The Suarez Tanker
Once a large and state of the art oil tanker, the Suarez is now a rusted shadow of its former glory. The highly computerized interior has been long since gutted by workers in preparation for it’s mothballing, and the hold quietly pumped full of toxic compounds from Transpax manufacturing facilities.
During the early mafia presence in the shipyards this ship was briefly used as a storage point for several shipments of assault rifles and grenades, some of which are rumored to still be stashed in the lower holds for emergencies.
The Crimson Navigator
The former luxury yacht of Transpax CEO Charles Hansel, this 120’ long vessel sits mostly forgotten, sandwiched between a weather beaten tugboat and several smaller fishing trawlers, its gleaming paint job flecked with rust and all but leeched of color in the aftermath of seasonal storms.
Despite the angelic sounding name this ships history is quite the opposite, in reality little more then a floating medical research platform. In its day the Seraphim was infamous for conducting experiments on laboratory animals searching for cures to various maladies and afflictions. The researchers on board used the legal freedom of international waters to get around otherwise restrictive treaties preventing the more extreme experiments conducted on human volunteers. Now the ship runs low in the waterline with a belly full of medical waste, much of it radioactive and infectious, as the mutated marine life beneath the waves will attest.
Little more then a registry designation IG-42 was a solid cargo vessel, often transporting expensive cargo and perishable goods from the west coast, south through the Panama Canal to east coast conglomerates and the well to do. She was moored here well over a year ago, after a fire in her engine compartment asphyxiated most of the crew and left her drifting without power off the gulf coast.
A small sailing vessel with cleverly concealed hydro jets just beneath the water line, it was used for smuggling of contraband from both Cuba and African drug lords in its heyday, until a run in with a US Customs patrol boat left it riddled with bullet holes and no longer sea worthy, now orphaned amidst the other rusting hulks as nothing more then a curiosity. The rumors of a cache of blood diamonds still onboard is circulated among smugglers and syndicate members, but none have bothered to investigate the ship so far.
This low slung building is made from concrete and reinforced with heavy armor designed to withstand bombardment from a coastal assault or air raid. Back when the shipyard was still a naval facility all manner of weaponry was stored here, from cruise missiles to full auto shotguns, the majority of which was relocated when the military abandoned the base over a decade ago.
Where many of the seamen lived aboard the shipyard during naval ownership, these long brick and wood buildings are now sagging in their foundations from years of neglect. The Mafia made the more inhabited structures home for their garrison of enforcers, at least until better accommodations on board some of the decommissioned vessel became possible.
A full fledged cruise liner taking up an entire berthing platform itself lists drunkenly to port, the majority of its windows shot out by bored mafia pistol duelists over the years. Its interior was only partially stripped before decommission, with many of the staterooms and luxury suites still fully furnished. The exact reasons for the ships mothball is unknown to all but a few of its former employees, none of which will speak of the ship without cursing its name and that of the captain Armando.
The Made Men
“A bunch of what?! Listen, I don’t care how many of the boys it takes, or if you need ta hire mercenaries to sink half the freak’n ships moored out there, I want this problem solved and it be back to business as usual by the end of the week! You hear me?!”
Don Carlene is unhappy; this local insurgency by mutated freaks is interrupting his import export business, and when the Don is unhappy, everyone who works for the Don is unhappy.
Enter the player group, a bunch of heavy hitters and ne’er-do-wells hired, (for a generous fee) by the family to clean up the docks and eliminate whatever threat is in the shipyard by any means necessary.
The Don is willing to provide guns, explosives, and even a little disposable muscle if they ask nicely. Of course failure is unthinkable, and running futile. Succeed and you could have a bright future as a “made man,” that is of course assuming you aren’t irradiated or driven insane by whatever lurks in the shipyard first.
An Easy Scam
“I’m telling you the job’s easy mate, slip in while these Mafia goons are distracted, grab the data and slip back out. You’ll be home in time for tea an crumpets, and best of all, filthy stinkin rich!”
It seems the former CEO’s yacht; The Crimson Navigator wasn’t thoroughly stripped before being deposited among the other derelicts. According to a former Transpax accountant “Slim Jim,” the Crimson Navigator contained a entire server room within in its depths, a server that was used not only to track the corporations holdings and stock options, but also contained the bank accounts and passwords for many of the executives.
Retrieving this encrypted information for Slim will net the characters a considerable share of the profits, enough money to retire on, or at least take a couple years vacation in the tropics. Of course finding the luxury yacht amidst the sea of decommissioned vessels is no easy feat, especially with the mafia in a running gun battle with some new occupants, occupants that seem to have a taste for human flesh and don’t like trespassers.
Even after the ship is located, acquiring the data will be harder then throwing some switches and booting up a mainframe. The ships engines have gone untended for a few years now, and any battery power onboard has long since lost its charge. Bringing along a generator and splicing it into the ships power grid, or simply yanking the drives from the server room are options. Both options however will take time, and draw the attention of curious parties on both sides of the war that rages around them.
“I’m not telling ya to like it, I’m telling ya to do it or find another job! Smitty’s one of our best undercover agents even if he’s an accident prone putz, and he’s the only one who knows what the hell’s going on down there. Find him, and make sure he gets out alive and with his tongue intact, or by god you’ll be writing parking tickets for the rest of your careers!
Smitty, a deep cover agent for the Philly police precinct, who was helping them keep tabs on the Mafias smuggling ring is in over his head. From the short phone call they received he’s been pinned down with some other wise guys on a freighter, fighting against what he described as men in Halloween costumes, before his call was abruptly terminated.
The characters, part of the cities S.W.A.T team have been given the thankless task of extracting the mole and getting him back for debriefing. With his long history of bad luck and broken bones, chances are he’ll need a wheel chair by the time the group finds his location.
Fortunately for the team, the dispatcher was able to narrow down his cell phone signal to the west side of the docks, near a group of abandoned structures and a decommissioned medical research vessel.
Even with it being the dead of night and temperatures dipping into the single digits as the worse blizzard Philly has seen in decade’s approaches, a rescue op must be sent. Even after Smitty is found, it’s unlikely he’ll leave without the flash drive he copied the last three months of shipping manifests onto. It’s a real shame he left it back in his quarters in the Mafia barracks.
We Need a Scavanger
“While worth nearly nothing to people like you, the portrait of dear Harold is essential to completing my restoration of the Sheinberg estate, where it hung proudly over the mantle piece before that fiend Armando placed him on that floating money pit of his.
Some rich people have more money then intellect, and others obsess over worthless trinkets. When the two flaws combine however, it often spells profit for those willing to put up with their eccentricities long enough to get paid.
Lady Eleanor Sheinberg is rebuilding her family estate, and it’s nearly complete save for one final piece, the portrait of her great grandfather, the founder of the Sheinberg family fortune.
Finding The Majestic is easy, the ship itself takes up a huge section of the former Naval yard, navigating its slanted decks and successfully locating the painting however, will be slightly more difficult.
There’s also one other little complication, Armando has heard of his ex wife’s desire for the painting, and he’s every bit as eager to find it and keep it from her out of spite for the pittance the divorce settlement awarded him. The crack team of ex military commandoes he’s black mailed into doing the job won’t give up easily, and thanks to Armando, they know right where the painting is stored.
A Touch of the Orient
“The Mafia dogs have lost control of their smuggling port to a bunch of irradiated squatters, and now they struggle to regain control of what is rightfully ours. You will bring us much honor when you finish removing the mafia presence from the docks and scrub the ships free of their stain.”
Seeing a prime opportunity to lay claim to valuable piece of real-estate, the Yakuza have taken the opportunity to invade the docks in force. Slipping among the shadows with silenced weaponry and razor katanas they are wrecking havoc in the Mafia’s otherwise organized response to the mutant infestation.
As new recruits into the Japanese crime syndicate, the characters are tasked with assisting this offensive and driving both the mafia and the monstrosities from the shipyard, hopefully without sparking another syndicate war.
While simple on the surface this task has become complicated by a recent tropical storm pounding the docks with its fury. Keeping a firm footing on pitching ship decks is difficult even for Yakuza martial artists, while the driving wind and rain makes easy identification of enemies all but impossible for even the keenest eyed seer.
Additional Ideas (2)
A older destroyer dating back a couple decades, this ship was sent into permanent retirement after a new radar and missile guidance system malfunctioned, burning out the wiring on several decks and creating a repair job that simply wasn't cost effective.
Now all but lost among larger vessels, the ships enhanced radar suite and IFF transponder are unexpected prizes for the lucky (or curious) salvager.
The Golitsyn (SECRET SUNKEN STEAM SHIP FROM CZARIST RUSSIA!) (try saying that three times)
In 1863, during the height of the American Civil War the Russian Atlantic and Pacific Fleets wintered in the Union Ports on the North America. Like all things Russian, the gesture was significant but the exact meaning was enigmatic. The Lincoln administration spun it as a sign of support for the Union cause and as counter weight to the threat of French and English intervention on the Confederate behalf. Others have suggested that Russia believed itself to be on the brink of war with England and France over the question of Polish sovereignty and wanted to prevent their fleets from becoming ice bound or blockaded. While most of the Russian Atlantic fleet laid anchor in New York, one ship, the Steam frigate Aleksandr Mikhailovich Golitsyn, arrived in Philadelphia. Whether the Golitsyn had an official mission to Philadelphia or was “separated” from the fleet during the crossing will never be known. Confederate spies had learned of the Golistyn’s approach and decided not to let Russian influence go uncontested. Considering what the Golitsyn was carrying it is also possible and likely that other parties had found a way to influence the Confederate agents towards their own end.
The day after he (According to the author's memory of Tom Clancy novels, Russian ships are always male) set anchor, Confederate saboteurs boarded and blew the boiler on the Golitsyn. The ship, most of her crew and all of her cargo sank in less than a quarter hour. The Golitsyn’s presence and its sinking was kept a secret and never officially acknowledged by either the Union government or the Russian Admiralty. The Lincoln administration did not wish to advertise the success Confederate saboteurs. The Russian Admiralty was not truly interested or capable of becoming involved in an American Civil War and did not wish to deal with the consequences of acknowledging an isolated act of aggression against their forces by the Confederacy. Today the half buried wreckage of the Golitsyn sits under the decaying remains of the Philadelphia Shipyard’s “younger” retirees. But thanks to his cargo, the Golitsyn has not entirely been forgotten.
In the 1800s pogroms against Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe had been on the rise. Immigration of Eastern European Jews to the United States had also been on the rise. The USA of the 1860s presented an interesting problem for the Jews, true there had been a rise of anti-Semitism manifested by General Order Number 11 and wide spread scapegoating of their communities all over the North. But there was also hope, Lincoln had over turned Order Number 11, they allowed Jewish Chaplains into the military and there was always the promise of the American Constitution that a man was free to have his religion. It seemed clear that even after centuries of living side by side the Russian masses were never going to accept Jews as true countrymen. It was decided that one of greatest treasure of the Eastern European Jewish Communities would be smuggled out of Europe and into the United States. The captain of the Golitsyn agreed to carry the treasure to the United States and this treasure is still with the Golitsyn’s wreckage.
The Golitsyn was carrying the Golem. After the Golem’s creation in Prague it was moved secretly around Europe, staying mostly dormant (met), only occasionally be reanimated to protect communities but he was always a power too great to be wielded by flawed mortal men (maybe if they had let women study…). If the Golem is brought up from the wreckage he can be animated by changing the inscription on his head from met to emet. After that he will serve to protect his master and his family from any perceived threats. Let us hope the calligrapher speaks Hebrew.
There was also a survivor of the Golitsyn, a Russian-Jew, who hid his identity and settled in Philadelphia. His family has quietly passed the story of the Golitsyn and the Golem down for generations. Plus there are still rumors (in circles that gossip about Jewish mysticism) that the Golem was smuggled to Philadelphia in the 1860s, but these rumors have forgotten the Golitsyn.
There is also another connection to present time in the form of an hourglass. The Golitsyn still used watch hourglasses and when the boiler blew the mid-shipman in command of the deck watched his life and the sands of the watch hourglass drain the simultaneously. That glass survives to this day and still has air in it. If it ever comes free from the wood and rot binding it, the hourglass will float to the surface. The Mid-shipman’s spirit or psionic shadow is linked to the glass. Whoever, finds it will be haunted until at least some piece (the hour glass counts) of the Mid-shipman and his young lover (who was also a sailor on the ship) are brought up and returned to their home city of Perm (third class mail would be fine).